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One of the greatest joys of being a parent is experiencing things through the eyes of your children as they experience them for the first time. Occasionally, however, being a parent affords you an opportunity to experience something for the first time yourself, which is what happened to me last week when I chaperoned my son’s field trip to the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad.
We had such a great time on the trip that I knew I had to snap pictures and pay attention to the details so I could share this info with you, dear readers. If you haven’t experienced the joy of a steam locomotive train ride through the Sierra Nevada, you should—and soon!
Here are ten things to know about the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad before you go:
1. It’s close enough for a day trip
The Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad (YMSPRR) is family-owned and -operated, and located 15 minutes beyond Oakhurst, CA— just four miles from the southern entrance to Yosemite National Park. Total driving time from Fresno to the YMSPRR is under 1.5 hours.
2. It’s open seasonally
YMSPRR is open to visitors from March through October each year. Hours vary depending on the weather, but you can find an up-to-date schedule online here.
3. It’s educational
As YMSPRR takes you through the scenic Sierra forest, you’ll enjoy hearing from the narrator about the history of the trains, track, and lumber industry throughout your journey.
4. It provides time to look around
The total train ride is one hour and includes a stop halfway, overlooking Lewis Creek. Riders will have an opportunity to look around the forest, get a closer view of the locomotive engine or take photos.
5. It allows dogs (!)
The cost to ride the train is $24 per adult or $12 per child, ages 3-12 (under 3 is free). Well-behaved dogs are also allowed aboard at no cost. Tickets may be purchased online or on site. If purchasing on site, it is recommended that you arrive 30 minutes prior to your scheduled train departure. (Refer to the schedule link above for times.)
6. It has a rail car named Jenny
In addition to the steam trains, when the weather is favorable, there is a rail car named Jenny that provides 30-minute rides for around 20 guests.
7. It’s safer than riding logs down a mountain
The YMSPRR was built for loggers to transport lumber through the Sierra forest. Bonus fun fact: In later years, a flume was built all the way down to the lumber processing facility in Madera and, at times, people even rode the logs down the mountain as a speedy (albeit not the safest) means of transportation!
8. It’s authentic
The two locomotive engines currently in operation at YMSPRR are Shay #10 and Shay #15. Both locomotive engines were purchased from Westside Lumber by the family operating the railroad to provide train rides to visitors. They are true to the type used originally on the track apart from the fact that Shay #10 and Shay #15 burn oil, not coal. Their bodies and steam operation are just like those that originally chugged along the track.
9. It includes BBQ sometimes
During peak season, YMSPRR offers Wednesday night barbecue dinners and on-train sing-alongs if you’re looking for a truly fun and unique evening experience on the tracks.
10. It’s a complete experience
In addition to the train experience, you can also enjoy a logging museum, gift shop, gold panning, and refreshments on site.